My parents ruined movies for me.
You see, when I was a kid we didn’t have over-the-air TV, let alone cable. All we had was a VHS player and twenty or thirty pre-approved tapes I was permitted to watch on Sundays only. Nine kids later, my parents practically beg my siblings to turn on the TV every day at 5pm, but that’s a story for another time.
Suffice it to say, I got very familiar with the movies we did have. Toy Story. Snow White. Babe. It’s A Wonderful Life. The Lion King. I watched them over and over. The one thing they have in common? They’re all classics. I don’t think I saw a bad movie until I was 12 or 13. Pretty cool, right?
You see, I thought all movies were that good. That there was a vast store of incredible films I simply wasn’t allowed to watch. Obviously, as an adult I was extremely disappointed to discover that the more movies I did watch, the higher percentage of bad ones I saw. It kinda destroyed my illusions about the magic of the movies. Maybe that’s why I’m so obsessed with good stories – growing up, that’s all I knew.
None of that really has anything to do with this post…well, actually it does. You see, one of the other films we owned on VHS was The Prince of Egypt, which includes this incredible scene:
As a kid, I thought it was just a cool scene, but now, I can’t watch it without crying.
Because it’s loaded with great filmmaking, storytelling, symbolism, and insights into the spiritual life. To name a few:
- Moses isn’t some larger-than-life biblical character. He’s a likable, relatable, regular guy. I think sometimes we forget that the heroes of the bible were people just like us. “It’s too early for this”? I’ve said that. Many times.
- Moses stumbles on the burning bush while focusing on his job as a shepherd. So often, the Lord speaks to us while we’re focusing on fulfilling our daily duties.
- Moses finds the burning bush in the hidden recesses of a cave, which mirrors perfectly our own search for the Lord: we have to seek Him, and when we find Him, it’s in the silence; in the recesses of our own hearts. It’s in the cave, so to speak, hidden away from the rest of the world.
- In the movie, God is actually voiced by the same actor as Moses (Val Kilmer), which beautifully represents how when we find God in the silence, He usually sounds like our own voice.
- God’s voice is the most amazing, mystifying, comforting voice I’ve ever heard. Incredible work by the sound design team.
- When Moses finds God, He identifies Himself as the God of Moses’ ancestors – causing Moses to remember the line “you are our brother,” which reveals to Moses where Moses comes from and his place in the world. At this point in the movie, Moses has run away from Egypt and from his people, and God appears to him with a call to remember who he is. When we find God, He helps us truly find ourselves and where we belong in the context of His plan.
- “I have seen the oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their cry.” You can almost hear the pain in the Lord’s voice. There is no one who cares more about our oppression or is moved more deeply by our cries.
- Immediately after this line, we hear a flashback to when Moses stopped an Egyptian from lashing an Israelite. God is about to ask Moses to free the Israelites, a desire that was already on Moses’ heart. God put that desire on his heart, but in this one line we realize that it’s a desire originating from God’s own heart.
- “A good land. A land flowing with milk and honey.” God wants His people to be happy. He wants us to be happy.
- In the face of God’s greatness and the overwhelming size of the task the Lord is asking him to complete, Moses is full of excuses and doubt. In response, God raises His voice, the music swells, and the Lord speaks my favorite line in the whole scene: “Who made man’s mouth? Who made the deaf, the mute, the seeing or the blind? Did not I? Now go!” We’ve all heard the cliché “with God all things are possible” but this puts a new spin on it. God made everything, even the imperfect body we use to accomplish His work. He knows our strengths and our weakness; our sight and our blindness, so to speak. Of course we can do what the Lord asks, because He knows perfectly what He’s asking and that we’re capable because He made us.
- Moses crumbles to the ground in fear of the awesome power of God, and what does the Lord do? He softens his voice, reaches out, lifts Moses up, and lovingly comforts him. God knows how to speak to us in a way we are able to understand and respond to.
- Overall thought #1: The Lord uses Moses’s name over and over. Can you imagine what it would be like for God to call your name? If I went to Hollywood and met a famous director who said “oh, John-Andrew! I know you!” I would be blown away. That’s exactly what God does every day. Every day He is calling me by name and asking me to return His love. Wat.
- Overall thought #2: Hans Zimmer absolutely kills it with the soundtrack.
Incredible, right? All of that meaning and symbolism packed into a 6-minute scene. It’s moments like this that have the power to do more than entertain: they pass on eternal Truth.
On some level, I think all of us are afraid of the big things the Lord might be calling us to. We’re full of excuses and fear…at least, I know I am. But the Lord isn’t a tyrannical God, scheming to ask me to do something I can’t and planning to smite me when I fail. He’s a personal God; a God who knows my name, calls it, raises His voice when I’m not listening, and then reaches out to comfort me when I cower at His power and my own weakness. That’s amazing. It’s comforting. It gives me hope.
So I guess in the end, I have to thank my parents for ruining movies for me; for only surrounding me with the type of entertainment that would help me learn about Truth, the Lord, and where I belong in the world. It’s movies like that – the stories that raised me – that have helped form who I am today.
Absolutely love this post! Thank you for sharing such wonderful insights.
Beautiful meditation. So many true insights. I’m off to use my mouth to sing at Mass. Love you!
I love your insights! “God knows how to speak to us in a way we will be able to understand and respond to.” Excellent! Clearly He is speaking to and through you, John-Andrew!
Thank you, John-Andrew, for this post; I love it. We have a lot of things in common, and the movie too.